Kansas Man Pleads Guilty in Plot to Explode Car Bomb at Airport
Terry Lee Loewen, 59, of Wichita, pleaded guilty today to one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Loewen was arrested in December 2013 when he tried to enter the grounds of the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport for the purpose of exploding a bomb. (The airport recently was renamed Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport).
“Terry Loewen utilized his privileged airport access to attempt a terrorist attack in Wichita,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “Detecting, disrupting and holding accountable those who wish to harm Americans remains our highest priority.”
“Protecting the American people from terrorism is our primary mission,” said U.S. Attorney Grissom. “It is vital that we disrupt attacks against our homeland and bring terrorists to justice.”
In his plea, Loewen admitted he came to the attention of the FBI late in May 2013 when he became a Facebook friend of a person who was posting comments advocating violent jihad. The FBI began communicating with Loewen through an undercover employee. After Loewen expressed his desire to engage in violent jihad, the undercover employee offered to introduce him to someone who could help him do it.
Loewen told the undercover employee he was waiting for what he called “the green light” from Allah to carry out a violent attack on a civilian target. He said he did not expect to live through any of the attacks he had in mind. He also said he was inspired by the teachings of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, and that he had downloaded thousands of pages of information on jihad.
In September 2013, Loewen sent photos of airplanes on the tarmac at the Wichita airport. He commented that he could have “walked over there, shot both pilots … slapped some C4 on both fuel trucks and set them off before anyone even called TSA.”
In October 2013, Loewen met with a second undercover FBI employee who Loewen believed was a “brother” and would help him blow up a plane. Loewen said he had scouted the airport to determine a time and place for an attack that would be sure to kill as many people as possible.
Loewen assisted the second FBI employee in the final assembly of an improvised explosive device. He was not aware that the explosive materials used in the device were inert. In the early hours of Dec. 13, 2013, the second FBI employee picked up Loewen at a Wichita hotel. They drove to where the bomb was stored and finished wiring the device. When they reached the airport, Loewen twice used his airport badge at a card reader to attempt to get onto the tarmac before he was arrested.
Loewen’s sentencing will be scheduled at a later date. Both parties have agreed to recommend a sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Grissom commended the FBI Wichita Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes members from the FBI, Sedgwick County, Kansas, Sheriff’s Office and Kansas Highway Patrol. Assisting with the investigation were the FBI Kansas City Division, the Transportation Security Administration, the Wichita Airport Authority and the Wichita Police Department. Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Grissom also commended the prosecutors on the case, Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Smith and Tony Mattivi of the District of Kansas and Trial Attorney Erin Creegan of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.